maiziejae’s review published on Letterboxd:
The first ten or so minutes of the film are solely based on emotions of the characters, and how emotion is perceived through art and action. Marie’s physical stance, from her first appearance, instantly radiates anger. A tense aura surrounds her character, which heavily contrasts the laid back celebrations of her boyfriend. Malcom dances throughout the house, showering his girlfriend with compliments, pouring alcohol and playing up-beat music, to celebrate the victory of his newly released music. This introduction really set the tone of the movie and represented a brief overview of the characters and their traits very well.
The theme of gender, specifically, is very well emphasised in the beginning of the movie, particularly through Malcom’s disregard for Marie’s clear lack of enthusiasm, humour and interest in what he is saying. Her expressions are bleak and blank. As Malcom talks about his success, she simply prepares his food, emphasising the lack of appreciation she feels. She doesn’t make a fuss, simply carries on with what she is doing, however, the actions of a stereotypical housewife only belittle her further.
Her character is one of self-destructive behaviours. She closes herself off in a way, that even her most straight forward words and actions are still difficult to read. I have to admire Zendaya’s acting abilities, and her range. Marie is a complicated character, but then again, all of Zendaya’s most recent characters have been.
Malcom, as well, is arrogant. Fixated on his own success and his own career, rather than the emotions and upset of his wife. His reputation gets in the way of his relationships. He’s very self-centred, and perhaps worries about the wrong things. He makes obvious yet subtle links between her addiction and her current “mental instability”, but struggles to justify some of his decisions (such as the inspiration of the character of Imani).
Overall, I’d say their relationship is wholly toxic. Neither of them communicate with each-other properly and it gets in the way of something that could be oh so passionate, but what is lust compared to emotional compatibility. I feel even though Malcom has clear admiration and strong feelings for Marie, his true love (and priority) is film-making, which is heavily reflected in the film, as it’s the centre piece of the argument between the lovers.
The relationship fluctuates heavily between anger and passion, but still seems to rotate heavily around the film. Even during scenes of intimacy, Marie talks about the film and its sucess, perhaps as an attempt to spark more interest into Malcom. The audibility of his sucess is inevitably egotistical, making him feel more confident in himself — emphasising the effects of flattery on men. This may again highlight Marie’s manipulative behaviour (the passion distracts her from the problems within the relationship, but only when it suits her) and Malcoms arrogant self confidence, giving him social hierarchy and a boost of self esteem. They obviously play these physco logical games with eachother throughout the movie, which makes it so nerving and yet interesting to watch.